Sports Sponsorship Can Drive Business Growth For Brands

Sports Sponsorship Can Drive Business Growth For Brands
Gareth Marshall, Senior Brand Manager at Shield, Unilever.

Sport is one of the few avenues that enables brands to interact with an already highly engaged audience. By tapping into this audience, brands are able to use sport as a platform that not only builds brand love and creates brand awareness, but that also functions as a mechanism to drive business growth – but only if implemented correctly.

We’re living in an increasingly hyper-connected world where content seems unlimited and brands are consistently fighting for airtime. Sport is one of the biggest platforms that not only has powerful content, but that retains the power to unite audiences simultaneously through a universal passion for real-life experiences and as third-party viewers through the media.

In South Africa, brands are struggling to leverage the power they have available to them. The majority of local sponsorships are based on an off-the-shelf sponsorship rights package or they believe that just slapping a logo on a shirt equals job done.

I believe that sports sponsorship is not just a marketing channel, but rather a brand communications platform that can be brought to life across a broad range of consumer touch points. In my opinion, well-activated sports sponsorships deliver a more significant return on investment for brands and a higher engagement with the intended target audience.

Brands contemplating sports sponsorship need to be clear on their business objectives. Starting with the consumer in mind and placing them at the heart of the campaign will set the benchmark for marketers to authentically activate a sponsorship opportunity and make a difference in society. A non–negotiable for me is to ask the question: are we bringing value to people’s lives?

I truly believe that we need less off-the-shelf sponsorship rights and more co-creation with our partners that will drive better value exchange and consumer engagement. In the end, both parties win.

In summary, here are my pointers for a successful sponsorship partnership:
• Avoid an off-the-shelf sponsorship package.
• Co-creation between brand and rights-holder is key to unlocking the magic.
• Brand and rights-owner need to have aligned business goals and objectives.
• Always put your consumer at the heart of the campaign.

Late last year, I was fortunate to be invited as a guest speaker and panellist at the inaugural CoNext Forum, where we tackled the topic of sports sponsorship head-on, spear-headed by Andrew Ross (MD Chaos Theory), OG Molefe (Sports journalist), Kelvin Watt (MD Nielsen sport) and Edward Connock (Head of Global Activation – Chelsea FC).

We need more conversations like this and I’m pleased to be kicking off, so to speak, with a series of articles tackling how to more effectively unlock the power of sports sponsorship so that marketers can win the hearts of their consumers.